Friday, June 08, 2012

Organic food turns people into jerks, and other deceitful headlines

Recently, a news story made the rounds about a study that concluded that organic food turns people into jerks. NBC News' Today show was one of many mainstream media that ran virtually identical headlines on this topic.

This instance of media bias may have been merely sloppy headline writing or some overworked copy editor in search of a good headline, but the effect was to mislead readers. It's a perfect example of how merely consuming the news media, even generally respected sites, can make you LESS informed, not more, if you do so uncritically.

The headline implies that eating organic food turns people into jerks, according to the study. But when you actually read the articles and use those critical thinking skills, you find out that the subjects don't actually EAT any organic food. They are merely SHOWN PICTURES of organic food.

So an intellectually honest headline would read, "Does *seeing pictures* of organic food turn you into a jerk?"

What's worse is that none of these news outlets bothered to raise questions about the credibility of research on the effects of organic food where none of the subjects actually ate organic food as part of the study. How such a flimsy study got such wide and uncritical media play perhaps creates a greater suspicion of media bias.

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